Abstract

Since the 1970s, winter rainfall over coastal southwestern Australia (SWA) has decreased by 10%–20%, while summer rainfall has been increased by 40%–50% in the semiarid inland area. In this paper, a K-means algorithm is used to cluster rainfall patterns directly as opposed to the more conventional approach of clustering synoptic conditions (usually the mean sea level pressure) and inferring the associated rainfall. It is shown that the reduction in the coastal rainfall during winter is mainly due to fewer westerly fronts in June and July. The reduction in the frequency of strong fronts in June is responsible for half of the decreased rainfall in June–August (JJA), whereas the reduction in the frequency of weaker fronts in June and July accounts for a third of the total decrease. The increase in rainfall inland in December–February (DJF) is due to an increased frequency of easterly troughs in December and February. These rainfall patterns are linked to the southern annular mode (SAM) index and Southern Oscillation index (SOI). The reduction in coastal rainfall and the increase in rainfall inland are both related to the predominantly positive phase of SAM, especially when the phase of ENSO is neutral.

 

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Last updated: 14th Jun 2016